Kwame James, the Trinadad-born basketball player who helped stop shoe bomber Richard Reid from blowing up an American Airlines flight was finally sworn in as a U.S. citizen Friday.
"I feel great. Obviously it has been a long time coming. I feel like it's a huge weight off my shoulders. I feel proud to be part of the greatest country in the planet," the 6-foot-8 James said.
James, 32, was playing in France and was on his way home for Christmas when the 6-foot-4 Reid tried to ignite a bomb hidden in his sneakers aboard a Paris-to-Miami flight in December 2001. After a flight attendant asked him for help, James sprang into action and helped subdue the wild-eyed terrorist and then sat on top of him until the flight safely landed in Boston.
"What he did, instinctively jumping up and subduing Richard Reid, this is what citizenship is about," said James' immigration lawyer Michael Wildes. "He instinctively did the right thing. He is a hero and a model citizen."
James, who played for the University of Evansville in Indiana and whose wife is American, said U.S. prosecutors had originally promised to help him get him legal documentation to live in the U.S., but then failed to follow through after Reid pleaded guilty.
James was recently cut by a NBA developmental league team and was in danger of losing his temporary visa before he and Wildes appealed to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) for help.
He has since secured a contract with the Brooklyn Kings of the United States Basketball League for their 30-game season that ends in June.